JUDICIAL REQUESTS FOR EVIDENCE
The Office of International Judicial Assistance (OIJA) serves as the Central Authority for the United States under the Hague Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters, T.I.A.S. No. 7444, 23 U.S.T. 2555 (Hague Evidence Convention). The United States is not a party to the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory for purposes of obtaining evidence. Because the Department of Justice has no authority to receive diplomatic notes directly from foreign states, the OIJA can only process Letters Rogatory received through diplomatic channels by way of the Department of State from any state that is not a member of the Hague Evidence Convention. Such requests are processed in a similar manner to requests under the Hague Evidence Convention.
The OIJA strongly encourages members to the Hague Evidence Convention to utilize the Model Letter of Request. Whether received pursuant to the Hague Evidence Convention or through diplomatic channels, the OIJA reviews the incoming Letter of Request to assess whether the request can be executed under our legal system. Our Frequently Asked Questions address common requests that cannot be executed under our legal system and will thus be returned without execution. An incoming Letter of Request must clearly identify the evidence sought and from whom. Where testimonial evidence is requested, the requesting judicial authority must provide a list of question to be posed or a detailed statement of the subject matter to be probed. Incomplete or untranslated requests will be returned without action. Please note, consistent with Articles 14(2) and 26 of the Hague Evidence Convention, the OIJA will seek reimbursement for certain costs, such as stenographer fees or costs, incurred by third parties in executing Letters of Request.
Upon confirming a Letter of Request is executable, the OIJA refers the Letter of Request to the United States Attorney’s Office with jurisdiction over the identified witness. Typically, an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) will execute a Letter of Request. Where a witness provides the requested evidence voluntarily, a Letter of Request may be quickly executed. However, where a witness must be compelled to provide the requested evidence, the assigned AUSA must initiate judicial proceedings in the United States under 28 U.S.C. § 1782, which will delay execution of the Letter of Request. The OIJA discourages the submission of duplicative Letters of Requests. Instead, judicial authorities may request status updates by contacting OIJA@usdoj.gov. To that end, we encourage requesting judicial authorities to provide us an e-mail address to which inquiries and updates may be forwarded. We also encourage judicial authorities to contact the OIJA to update or modify a previously submitted Letter of Request. Where requested evidence is no longer needed, we ask the requesting judicial authority to promptly notify the OIJA.
Hague Evidence Convention
Model Letter of Request
Executing Hague Evidence Requests
28 USCA 1781
28 USCA 1782
OIJA Evidence and Service Guidance